Friday, April 29, 2005

Spam Classics

Subject: "At our chemist, you always have top selection of medicaments. roughneck"

And then at the end of the body of the message, this cryptic encantation:

"fldnum engg flusherr q2 dmpeg ekalf
been been been been pants, been pantsWho says been pants are dead and gone"


Friday, April 22, 2005

Checking Back In with the Niles West Gymnastics Team

All I've wanted to do over the last month is get back to working with the guys on the gymnastics team. So I'm back for a final week as they enter the homestretch of their season.

  Alex's textbook cross
The progress they've made in the month between my trips has been impressive. Last Thursday they showed a lot of promise. Saturday they continued to improve. And last night's meet things really started coming together.

They reached a team score of 130.7 - their season high and a significant milestone. Coach said that in the last ten years the team has maybe reached 130 once or twice, but Adrian's team and my team ('94 and '95) were the last two that he could recall hitting that mark.

  Marco's 9.0 Tsukahara
In order to reach 130 the top three scores (five compete, three count) on each of the six events must average a 7.2 or better. That's quite a feat for gymnasts who walk into the gym as freshman having never done gymnastics. And just five or six weeks ago this team was scoring a paltry 113. Remarkable. Sometimes this mark is reached thanks to some funny judging - high scores that the kids don't exactly deserve. But the scores last night were pretty much in line. They legitimately earned their 130.

Adrian and I disagree on this, but I'm pretty sure that our teams each only reached 130 once. And I'm not convinced that we deserved the scores we got in those meets. I said after my first day with this team that they could beat our '94 and '95 squads. It would be a great dogfight, but if it were possible to go head-to-head, I do think these guys just might edge us out. However, I am pretty sure that the Keith/Banzai back then would have intimidated the hell out of them! And I'm not sure if Banzai '95 was a better asset than Banzai '94 on Adrian's team. Could be the difference-maker!

Unfortunately the outlook isn't all rosy. The state-wide public high school league has shrunken from around 55 teams in my day down to 42. And it's getting weaker year by year. Illinois is one of only a handful of states that even have a public high school gymnastics league. Coach said that at least four teams that are competing this year will be closing their doors forever at the end of this season. In his words, "that may be the final straw for boys' gymnastics." He shook his head, paused for a second, then added, "I think we've only got about four more years before we get shut down too."

This was devastating news. Maybe I just caught coach at a pessimistic moment. But it's devastating nonetheless. Especially considering the success and vitality of the program this year. They're experiencing a resurgence that has been missing for a decade. Last night the freshman team, led by coach's son, finished the season undefeated. The JV guys are progressing along nicely and are on the verge of cracking the Varsity lineup. The Varsity guys are finally tapping into their potential and bringing it all together. The kids at all levels are learning to succeed. They are pursuing excellence.

These kids will take these experiences with them wherever they go, for the rest of their lives. They won't remember their chemistry classes for crap - do you remember your alkanes, alkenes, and alkynes? - but they'll remember what they learned in the gym. They'll remember what they learned about themselves. And most importantly they'll remember how to succeed. This is what the sport is for. This is what it excels at. This is why it exists.

How can such a good thing be on its deathbed?

My Big Ass: Round Two

After hours of searching though obnoxious stores desperately trying to exude "cool" from every floorboard, I've found a new pair of jeans to replace the ones that met a tragic end.

What's with these stores anyway? What's with the faux-homosexual rail-skinny 20-something with a ridiculous near-Mohawk with the tips dyed bright pink working the dressing room? What's with the unrelentingly "ambient" music drooling out of the Gap's speaker system where every song drearily/moodily/catatonically repeats each line of its lyrics five times: "dancing to the light, dancing to the light, dancing to the light, dancing to the light, dancing to the light... dreaming, dreaming, dreaming, dreaming, I'm dreaming..." Yech.

The girl that helped me at American Eagle was so ridiculously, earnestly eager to help me that I think she's contributing to the energy crisis. She could harness all that effort into curing cancer or creating cold fusion. Instead it's used to try to sell me $45 jeans. And I thought I was squandering my talents.

I left most of these stores feeling incredibly thankful that I am not possessed by such a pathetic, desperate need to exude cool. They may have jeans (and pink-dyed Mohawks), but the over-franchised emperor has no clothes.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Wine Tasting: Chateau St. Jean 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon

Chateau St. Jean
(Sonoma County)
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon
Rating: 7/10

Modestly spicy fading to sharper tannins. Deep but subtle fruit underneath, perhaps blackberry. A bit too mild when paired with food. Much more enjoyable when paired with a sharp cheese.

Approx $20-$25 from local grocery stores.

Wine Tasting: Lindeman's Reserve 2003 Shiraz

Lindeman's Reserve
(Southern Australia)
2003 Shiraz
Rating: 4/10

Overwhelmingly spicy and peppery on the finish. Perhaps enjoyable with the right choice of food, but entirely too difficult to enjoy on its own. Unless you like lots of freshly ground black pepper.

From Trader Joe's.

My Big Ass

Apparently my backside is more powerful than I'd previously thought. I literally split my pants last night while I was sitting down on a low seat. Good thing I was at home when it happened. A gash this big is a little difficult to hide.

The denim is pretty thin, but I didn't think it was that fragile. Now I have to do some shopping tomorrow...